UFC: Undermining the Myth of the Greg Jackson Game Plan

James MacDonald@@JimMacDonaldMMAFeatured ColumnistAugust 1, 2012

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 30:  Mixed martial arts trainer Greg Jackson holds the Coach of the Year award at the Fighters Only World Mixed Martial Arts Awards 2011 at The Pearl concert theater at the Palms Casino Resort November 30, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Greg Jackson is killing MMA, don’t you know? He constructs game plans for his fighters and, you know, other similarly nefarious deeds.

That is the sort of charge I so often hear being levelled at Jackson’s MMA, albeit a slightly caricatured version of it.

It happened after Condit vs. Diaz, Guida vs. Maynard, and in the aftermath of pretty much every GSP fight.

It shouldn’t take much to debunk this especially virulent myth, yet it persists in spite of the evidence.

While watching Spencer Lazara’s recent interview with Ronda Rousey, the Olympic bronze medalist made the following remarks regarding her upcoming bout with Sarah Kaufman:

You know, if she wants to jump on the bicycle and pull a Condit on me, I’m prepared for that too. I don’t have plans. I am the anti-Greg Jackson.

This all seems innocent enough. She’s just talking about her aversion to game plans, after all.

Well, it’s not quite that clear cut. The remarks come across much differently once you view the interview. They are delivered disdainfully, as though any association with Greg Jackson is enough to undermine a fighter’s credibility.

And just as a little side note, who does Ronda think she’s kidding? I daresay she has the most transparent game plan in all of MMA: secure top position and look for an armbar. But I digress.

A large outcry followed Clay Guida’s performance against Gray Maynard, and I was amongst their number. But unlike most, I settled for criticising the man most responsible for that farcical display, reminiscent of a Benny Hill sketch: Clay Guida.

Naturally, other people offered a different perspective. High profile fighters like Daniel Cormier and Dan Hardy were quick to point the finger at Jackson, along with a whole host of fans on Twitter.

Exactly the same reaction followed Condit vs. Diaz—a far less egregious demonstration of distance running.

MMA luminaries such as Duke Roufus, Pat Miletich, Ronda Rousey and, ahem, Cody McKenzie were all fiercely critical of the fact that Greg Jackson did not order Condit to fight flat-footed, as though he was under some obligation to tailor his game plan to suit Diaz’s style.

How did we acquire such selective memories? We seem to suffer from an extreme case of confirmation bias, acknowledging only that which supports our already-established views.

Need proof? Consider for a moment who else Greg Jackson trains: Donald Cerrone, Jon Jones, Melvin Guillard, Leonard Garcia, Brian Stann, Diego Sanchez and many more.

Each of the above are amongst the most exciting fighters one could ever hope to see. Rarely are they in a dull fight, gobbling up post-fight bonuses like Roy Nelson at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

It goes without saying that Jackson’s MMA gets precisely zero credit for how utterly watchable those fighters are. Indeed, Greg Jackson only ever seems to receive recognition for the worst of his camp.

When was the last time someone praised the Albuquerque-based gym for one of Jones’ or Cerrone’s compelling displays inside the cage? My memory likely doesn’t stretch back that far.

It is a curious fact about our psychology, that we so often ignore that which runs contrary to our beliefs. For whatever reason, Greg Jackson has been a victim of this particular phenomenon.

It is perhaps time that we learn to appreciate what Jackson’s MMA has brought to the sport, rather than tearing them down whenever one of their fighters fail to meet our expectations.

Then again, we seem to view success with suspicion and envy. That fact will doubtless continue to supersede our need for fair-mindedness.